Did your jaw drop with Black Panther’s character coming to life after ages and onto the screen in Captain America: Civil War in 2016? It’s safe to assume the affirmative. Clutching at the hearts of wildlife enthusiasts, this big black cat has slowly set its paws towards Odisha’s Hemgir forest range, tracing a similar trajectory. India’s celebrated rare species of the Black Panther was spotted earlier in the week in the Garjanpahad Reserve Forest, Sundargarh after almost 20 years in Odisha! The black panther, known to be a rare variation of your common leopard, is a rarity not just in the space it is found in, but also within the gene pool it comes from. With a genetic mutation setting them apart from their spotted cat family, the black panther has always come packaged in mystique and awe with its choicest representation from Marvel Comics to ‘Bagheera’ in Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book.
The colourful land of Odisha in India has been known for its awe-inspiring temples, tribal culture and scenic beauty, which hasn’t been tampered with. Amidst this land of guarded forested hills, various tribal communities, as well as wildlife, have found refuge. Providing a safe haven for wildlife ranging from the endangered blackbuck to sea turtles, from black tigers to black leopards, Odisha has been a conserver of many varied marvels of life. As a state, this land of Odisha has another feather in its cap as it now plays host to this atypical feline friend which previously seen in Assam’s Kaziranga National park and Manas National Park. The black panther, as if coming back after some respite, has been spotted and caught on camera at the Garjanpahad Reserve Forest in Odisha and has gathered massive attention and responses from people.
Odisha's Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF) Sandeep Tripathi said, “The panther has been captured in a particular camera trap several times. We thoroughly verified those footages before coming to the conclusion that it is a black panther” With concrete photographic evidence and assurance that the black beauty is safe in the wilderness of human civilisation, Odisha becomes the only state in the country to surrender to this cat power accommodating a full house of black panthers, black leopards and black tigers. This black one is weaving some magic and meowing you to come see not just its pugmarks but the whole of itself in all its glory!
Getting there: Air India, Indigo and Vistara offer non-stop flights from major Indian metropolitan cities to Bhubaneshwar’s Biju Patnaik International Airport; from Bhubaneshwar, you can take trains from the Railway Station to the Jharsuguda Junction Railway Station. From the Jharsuguda Junction, you can hop on to a taxi for a 30-minute drive to the Sundargarh District.